See-Saw Affair as Lead Changes Hands Seven times
Westoe back on Form in Tough Match-up
South Shields Westoe hosted Stockton at Wood Terrace in the first match of 2019 looking to overturn their early season loss to the Teesside team. In an entertaining match the spectators were treated to 82 points, 11 tries and witnessed the lead change hands 7 times.
Westoe started strong, playing up the hill and working through the phases against a determined defence from the visitors. The first score came after Paul Evans left his wing hunting for the ball, creating some space and penetrating the defence, offloading to Jake Arnold to cross wide of the posts. 5-0
It was a little déjà vu at the restart, with Westoe failing to take the ball cleanly, giving Stockton the scrum and good attacking platform. They pounded Westoe up close sucking the defence in and then let the ball go wide for Horner to cross and take the lead after six minutes played. 5-7
Westoe retook the lead after 14 mins, working their way up the slope, Haydn Richards making the break and passing wide to Jamie Preston who took the last man and passed back inside to Richards for a converted score. 12-7
Another poor restart gave Stockton good advantage and they pressed hard, looking dangerous in attack; however a Richards steal and break took Westoe out of their 22m with Joe McKenzie in support who put in a long clearance kick, chased down by Sam Gaff to complete the long range score. 19-7
Another poor restart gave Stockton a penalty after 18 minutes. Converted 19-10
Stockton upped the tempo and played some of their best rugby with two quick tries in succession.
The first came from an organised catch and drive pushing Westoe down the slope and then spinning the ball wide and finding plenty of room out wide for Thompson to run in. 19-15
Fielding the ball from the restart, Stockton’s Powell waltzed through a seemingly absent defence and found plenty of support, a Jones kick sent down the line for Thompson to touch down and retake the lead. 19-22
Stockton received a yellow card on 30 minutes; however played solid rugby and forced Westoe back into their own 22m area. With Stockton pushing hard, Paul Evans stole the ball and broke out of the 22, finding Jake Arnold in support who made a fifty metre weaving run to score under the posts and retake the lead and gain the four-try bonus point. 26-22
Stockton had one final chance in the half but a miss-kicked penalty kept Westoe with a four point cushion at half-time.
Westoe started the second half in control of possession; however the Stockton side looked dangerous whenever they had the ball and after 10 minutes of the half they re-took the lead after some slick handling in the backline leading to try number three, touched down by Horner. 26-29
In a close fought affair, Stockton came close with scoring opportunities, led by fly-half Jones who mixed the plays well, forcing Westoe to dig deep in defence. With stand-out performances from Paul Evans and man-of-the-match Haydn Richards, one notable moment came from Anthony Rumis, stopping Stockton’s destructive runner, Powell, in his tracks and causing the turnover.
The next score came after 20 minutes, another Evans break offloaded to Joe McKenzie who somehow managed to thread his way through half a dozen defenders and win the race to the line and putting the home side back in front. 33-29
Richards scored his second of the day with ten left to play setting up a thrilling last period with both sides giving everything for the win. 38-29
The inevitable botched restart gave Stockton a penalty, which they took quickly, and fast, safe passing spun the ball wide for Thompson and their bonus-point fourth score, bringing the game back to one try and upping the heart rate of the spectators in the stand. 38-34
Westoe responded with a penalty of their own taking the lead to seven. 41-34
With both sides now going all out and Stockton pushing hard for at least a draw, Haydn Richards capped off a fine performance with another steal and dash to the line, scoring his third of the day and denying Stockton the losing bonus point. Final score 48-34
After a string of poor results before the Christmas break, Westoe did everything they needed against a quality side who looked dangerous every time they had possession. They still need to address concentration levels after scoring and work on safe, clean ball when fielding restarts. That said, they showed determination and skill throughout with some big hits in defence and some crucial turnovers.
Stockton showed threat whenever in possession and came very close to tying, if not winning, the match and probably deserved a couple of losing bonus points on the day.
Next week, Westoe travel to Ponteland who are having a run of losses themselves over recent weeks.